U.S. Airways starts charging $7 for pillows and blankets


U.S. Airways, which we learned yesterday from the release of the Hudson River ditching tapes is nicknamed "Cactus" among air traffic tower controllers, continues to earn its prickly reputation. Starting Feb 16, it will charge $7 for pillows and blankets on its flights.

The development should surprise no one. JetBlue started doing this in August, and it sold the upcharge by making a big-to-do about the supposed high quality of its pillows, and pointing out that passengers could keep them after the flight for re-use.

But leave it to U.S. Airways to co-opt an extra charge among the major carriers. It leads the major fliers when it comes to instituting charges. When JetBlue was posting a charge for blankets, U.S. Airways was posting a charge for water. Now it has expanded the in-flight fees be selling passengers their own take-home, logo-emblazoned "Power-Nap Sack" containing an inflatable pillow, fleece blanket, earplugs, and an eye mask.

It's useless to complain about these extra airline fees. They are clearly here to stay. U.S. Airways announced last week that its list of extra fees brought in some $100 million for the airline in the last three months of 2008, despite the fact that seat occupancy fell nearly 7%. No airline is going to dismiss that kind of dollar number. They're going to take that number and see how far they can push it up.

I wasn't going to whine about this new extra price anyway. I don't mind paying for pillows and blankets if it means I don't have to use the disgusting ones the airlines now provide. They're covered with other people's hair and perfumed with strangers' body oils, and instead of being properly laundered between flights, they're usually folded and set out for the next greasy-haired person. If paying $7 guarantees me something clean, then I'll pay it. But usually, I'm more content to use my coat or jacket. That's free, and it saves me from having to find a space to stow it. So U.S. Airways can charge whatever it wants. I won't contribute to that $100 million. Like movies and water, I'll just bring my own, and feel virtuous doing it.